I have a secret. A dirty, filthy secret.
A secret more shameful than candy bribing my kids into taking cute photos together.
More shameful than the time that I publicly peed my pants while jumping on a trampoline. More shameful, even, than the fact that I now resort to wearing two pairs of Spanx anytime I get to “dress up.”
My dreadful secret? My kids watch a lot of TV.
I’ve read all of the studies. The ones shared in Facebook mom groups, listing all the reasons why screens are bad. The findings really are terrifying, guilt-inducing, and fear-feeding.
But these studies barely impact our rituals, doing nothing but increasing my mom guilt. I’ve even gone so far as to comment silly things at the bottom of posts, such as “limited screen time in our house too,” all the while speed flipping through the channels to find Dora so I can run off to scrub the counters before our playdate.
Mommy needs a shower? Paw Patrol. Mommy needs to cook dinner without hearing endless complaining about how gross it smells? Peppa Pig. Mommy and Daddy need some “alone time” in the laundry room? Daniel Tiger. Mommy is about to lose it if she hears one more minute of fighting? Story Bots.
Before I had kids I had this expectation of myself as a mother. Someone who spent the majority of her time on the floor, playing and interacting. Teaching and laughing. Going on outdoor expeditions to examine different bugs and rocks and moss.
Yet here I am. Five years later, three little boys, a greasy ponytail and a mountain of laundry that doesn’t seem to diminish no matter how many loads I do.
Sure, we get outside. We examine bugs, climb trees and do all of that lovely stuff, but it’s more of a struggle than I had imagined.
Sure, we snuggle and laugh and read books and build castles … but not as often as I’d like.
I worry and I obsess over the amount of screen time they get. I berate myself for it, hating that I just can’t manage the workload without TV. I hide it from my friends and I get grumpy with my husband when he brings it up.
But I’m ready to let go of this shameful secret for one reason. It shouldn’t be shameful.
This is what my life looks like. This is how I get by. I’m doing my best. I’m in the thick of it. Still in the thick of postpartum – yes, even two years later. The thick of terrible twos, tiresome threes and the fearsome fours.
I’m struggling to get through the day to day, to cook healthy meals, have a clean living space and presentable clothes, a happy husband, flourishing businesses, answered emails, maintained friendships, and entertained children.
It’s basically an impossible task for anyone who wants to hold on to their sanity.
So for right now, I’m enlisting the help of Netflix and iPad. And pretty much any piece of plastic, glass, metal, wood, rubber or even stardust that will hold my kids’ attention for longer than three minutes so I can tackle some of the other tasks on my ‘mommy plate.’
One day, when the destructive hands turn a little more helpful, or my energy levels rise, the screens will stay black.
The running shoes will be worn for more than errands and the learning journals will be used for more than scribbling and stickers.
One day the chaos will slow, just a bit, and day to day survival will look different.
Until then, I’m going to give myself a little bit of grace.
Now excuse me, I’ve got to go press play again because apparently Netflix can’t believe they’re still watching The Magic School Bus.
Mommy’s Inside Voice is a bi-weekly column by Amie Jay, a local mother of three.